Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The soul of a cutcheri

By KN Viswanathan

The post-main part of a Carnatic music concert, which features lighter items, is popularly known as the tukkada session. The Music Academy programme list describes this as “Miscellaneous” or “Idhara vagaigal” in Tamil, meaning sundry items. Is it fair to so downgrade this segment?

I don’t think so. After an elaborate alapana, niraval, kalpana swaras for the main item or central piece of the concert in a ghana ragam followed by a tani avartanam comes this beautiful session. It provides the artist an opportunity to take the concert to a higher plane by judicious selection of songs of rich lyrical beauty. It has to be free from technical, intellectual or any kind of exhibitionism and should connect with the listener at a deeper level.  The vocalist should be proficient in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam with proper pronunciation and the right kind of musical imagination to properly render these kritis.
Several stalwarts excelled in this session. My father K V Narayanaswamy, like his great master Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, had a special liking for this section of the concert and had a rich repertoire to present the kind of songs best suited to this session. Songs of Tamil composers like Gopalakrishna Bharati, Papanasam Sivan, Vedanayakam Pillai, Tanjavur Sankra Iyer, Arunagirinathar, Kudumbai Siddhar, Ramalinga Swamigal, MD Ramanathan, the Dasa composers in Kannada, Swati Tirunal and Irayamin Thambi in Sanskrit, Malayalam and Manipravalam, and Arunachala Kavi, Andal’s Tiruppavai,  Rama nataka kritis,  and kritis like Syama Sastri'sMayamma or the Neelambari kriti Ennaga manasu of Tyagaraja are some of the gems that come to mind.

KVN spaced out the programme in such a way that he had time to sing at least five to six songs after the central piece. The ragas he chose were mostly Khamas, Behag, Bagesree, Nadanamakriya, Ahiri, Neelambari, Sindhubhairavi, Kapi, Suruti, Kurinji, Brindavana Saranga, Chintamani, Chenchuritti, Manji, Yamuna Kalyani, Jonpuri and Yadukula Kambhoji.

A leading mridangam vidwan once said that he did not have to worry about the audience walking out during the tani avartanam when he accompanied KVN because they would stay back to listen to the gems he would soon sing.

When MS sang Kurai onrum illai or the beautiful Annamacharya song Jo Atchutananda (Kapi), or when KVN sang the Gopalakrishna Bharati’s Varugalamo ayya (Manji) or a folk song like Meiporul kandorku in Chenchuritti, the listener was transported to a different world and the music lingered in their hearts long after the concert.

My recommendation is that the post tani session be called the soul filling session or soul lifting session.


  1. Brilliantly put. The essence of Dasa Sahithya was to reach out to the common man thru music. And the tukkada sessions deliver the icing on the cake of a concert by bringing out the Soul of the session. Hats off to the writer who has shown courage to write this while the majority of the Hippocratic audience & the music fraternity would not openly accept this!

    1. Thank You. Something I really miss these days

  2. I can relate to this. The year was 2000 or 2001, (I do not remember the year). That time, every year KVN used to sing on the evening of Jan 1st at Thiruvanmiyur Asthika Samajam. The concert was at Saraswati Matriculation school in Radhakrishnan Nagar. After a brilliant concert, KVN launched into the soul stirring session. As KNV says, people were trasported to a different plane. When he sang VArugalamo, all the people I could notice (including me) had moist eyes. Some were more visible with tears flowing. I fully endorse KNV's view to strengthen the post main section! -- VC

  3. I agree with you. These days, most people sing post main only for about 10 min. Only after about 5-6 soul-filling songs do you feel that the concert is complete and as you said rasikas go out with a heavenly feeling. Youngsters should learn from the likes of TN Krishnan who played for about 30 min post main this year at Naada Inbam & MA, including beautiful ragas such as Surutti, Sindhu Bhairavi, a thillana etc.

  4. KNV, the term tukkada or "a relatively short piece" in Hindi would have been applied somewhat off-handedly by someone influential in a supremely non-aesthetic moment. Imagine if someone described the flower garlands on a temple deity (adorning the image after the clothes and jewellery are first placed and arranged) as tukkada!
    YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT when you say that the post main section makes a huge difference to a concert as it is devoted to more bhava-laden and sahitya+raga dominated poetically moving compositions. If a musician lacks this repertoire, he loses his connect with an audience.
    This section is also a casualty when a musician is tired, has a major time management issue, or lacks the right mix of technique and bhava. Over a period of time, a musician's "brand recall" among the majority of rasikas will be driven by his doing well in the post-main section. Tukkada can be replaced with the word rakti/bhakti section.